The undead have given life to a successful movie and TV genre that, well, just won’t die. Films about the zombie apocalypse never seem to go out of fashion. And in a world dealing with a very real and lethal outbreak, movies about a rampaging virus threatening Earth have a particular resonance.
To determine the best zombie movies, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of April 2022, weighting all ratings equally. Only movies where zombies are a major plot element were included in the analysis. (See where zombies roam among the 50 best horror movies of all time.)
Zombie movies are generally long on violence, gore, and nudity, and short on plot and character development. Though some are strictly gore fests, many infuse comedy into the mix – and some, such as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” are mashups of two completely unrelated genres.
These movies appeal to audiences in anxious times, and as a bestselling author in the zombie genre, Max Brooks, says on his website, “A zombie story gives people a fictional lens to see the real problems of the world. You can deal with societal breakdown, famine, disease, chaos in the streets, but as long as the catalyst for all of them is zombies, you can still sleep.” (Luckily, so far the zombie virus hasn’t spawned one of the worst epidemics and pandemics in history.)
Zombie movies have proved their worth at the box office. The most lucrative has been “World War Z,” starring Brad Pitt. Released in 2013 by Paramount, it has racked up more than $540 million in worldwide ticket sales.
George A. Romero is credited with popularizing the genre cinematically with a series of zombie films starting with “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968. Besides its depiction of gore and tension build-up, critics like Romero’s sly political commentary in his movies. Romero has six motion pictures on this list.
Sam Raimi, who helmed the “Evil Dead” franchise, has three movies in the top 10 here, and Brian Yuzna directed three movies on the list and produced a fourth. Paul W.S. Anderson had a hand in all six of the “Resident Evil” films, directing four of them and producing and writing the others. Actress Milla Jovovich starred in all six, with two of them making the list.
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